Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Kiss and a Promise

It's a Pleasure (1945)
directed by William A. Seiter
rating: 2 out of 5 cravats
watched on Netflix Instant

This Instant drought is getting dire. Half of the remaining 30 titles in my queue are TV shows. But what are my options? The Warner Bros. Instant Archive has 56 movies available to stream. You can buy 1300 from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection; I'd pay $10 a month for access to those! Amazon Plus? Hulu Prime? This blog's boring enough without regurgitating superlatives for Criterion releases.

Until I get through The Fall of the Roman Empire and put the two discs back in the mail, I'm stuck with small finds like It's a Pleasure. And it almost is! Michael O'Shea is like no one so much as Brad Dourif in a late-career Orson Welles fat suit—the same twinkle in his eye, the same angled grin. As hockey player Don Martin, O'Shea is perfect, slugging it out with a referee en route to a lifetime ban from the league.

All the good scenes show early, at a Canada-US grudge match in a big, grimy arena that radiates beneath Technicolor blush. Don, the big lug, spends intermission rink-side in the box of a friend, bumming cigarettes off the pal's pretty wife. Gail's bored with her marriage and happily suspects Don is pawing at her thigh, but he just wants her cigarette case and one last smoke before the third period.

Enter Sonja Henie, a Norwegian Olympic figure skater who should never have been an actor, and her dull fawning over the great man that alcoholic Don could be. As a wiser member of the Crystal Sextet halftime entertainment says in an aside, "She doesn't know what a pass is. She thinks it's a ticket to a show." But Mrs. Fletcher knows, and doesn't soon forget the unstable charms of Don Martin, and insists on making him hers.

She's the clear catch, and everyone hates her for it, maybe because everyone else—Buzz, Don's manager, ladies and gentlemen of the audience—wants Don too. He misses the boat.